Fraser Island

High on the bucket list for my Aus adventure was a trip to Fraser Island. At 75 miles long it’s the largest sand island in the world, and I couldn’t wait to get over there and see it for myself. I didn’t know quite what to expect, only knowing that the island’s native aboriginal name is ‘K’gari’, meaning ‘paradise’

But how to get over there without a 4wd? I had 2 options; either renting, or going on an organised tour. Chris and I quickly crossed off the renting option. We had no off road driving experience, knew very little about cars, and had heard plenty of stories about people breaking down in their crappy rentals. However, I’ve never really done the whole organised tour thing either and wasn’t sure if I wanted to.

Anyways, somehow during the researching stage, Wicked Travel managed to rope me into a package deal. I’d be going to Fraser with Palace Adventures on a self-drive 4WD tour with 2 nights camping.

We set off from Next hostel in Hervey Bay with 7 or 8 people to a car (it was pretty cramped), 4 cars in total. You had to be over 21 to drive, which meant there were only about 3 or 4 drivers in each car, I wasn’t complaining!

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We got the ferry and within 45 minutes we were on the island!

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Straight off we were driving along inland tracks through the rainforest. They were narrow and windy with bumps everywhere. And the guide up front wasn’t holding back which was awesome.

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But when it came to my turn I didn’t really grasp how to apply the brakes before the bigger bumps. On one of the worst ones I managed to get the front wheels of the car right up in the air. I think everyone was a bit shaken but the main thing was the ice stayed in the esky and our booze was in one piece.

Paradise

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Over 3 days we drove through inland tracks and along 75 mile beach, stopping at points of interest along the way. And as it turns out, Fraser Island was called paradise for a reason. Continue reading

4 Reasons I Wouldn’t Work in Bundaberg Again

With fruit picking jobs all year round, Bundaberg entices Backpackers from all over Australia. Sweet potatoes, sugar cane, tomatoes, pumpkins, you name it and it’s probably grown in Bundaberg! So the perfect place to come to get your 2nd Year Visa? Maybe don’t book your plane ticket just yet…

I’ve spent the past 2 months working in Bundaberg and staying at the Workers & Divers Hostel. It wasn’t the worst 2 months of my life but it was far from the best. But here’s a few reasons why I think I’d reconsider going to Bundy, were I to do it again.

1) You’ll most likely get taken advantage of

It’s hard to get rich in Bundy. Whether it’s the farmers taking the piss paying you crap contract rates, the hostels charging outrageous rent, or bad weather giving you unexpected days off, you may find you’re not earning quite as much money as you’d hoped.

In my case I landed on my feet with a good job. I worked on a sweet potato farm earning $21/hr and was part of a great team. The downside? My rent at the hostel was $200/week. It was actually meant to be $235, however, I stayed in my campervan and was given a $35 discount. A lot of people thought I was crazy! But the way I saw it was I got cheaper rent, plus a clean, comfy, bed bug free bed to share with Chris.

The hostel owner turned out to be nothing but a greedy contractor with a never ending list of rules stating all the things you can’t do in the hostel, along with threats of kicking you out with no refund. He didn’t care about the backpackers, he just cared about how many beds were filled and how much money he was making.

Obviously not all hostels are the same and some are better than others. But often the cheaper ones get you contract rate jobs where you might work your ass off for 10 hours and not earn much.

2) Bundaberg farms aren’t always the nicest places to work

As I said above I got very lucky with the farm I worked on and was part of a fun team full of both local Aussies and international backpackers. It was that team that made the mundane and repetitive work bearable. But this isn’t the case on some farms.

Before working on the potato farm I worked in a packing shed where things weren’t so great. The supervisor never smiled and didn’t know how to talk, just shout. She would walk around the pack house shouting and swearing at people while smoking a cigarette. And if you did something wrong, even on your first day, she would scream at you for it. The rest of the local staff were always stressed and it was a horrible atmosphere to work in.

Back at the hostel I would talk to people about their farms and often I would hear similar stories. One farm had a dog that would bite the backpackers and the farmer would do nothing about it. On other farms people would be shouted at, sworn at, nothing was ever good enough or fast enough. I think a lot of the farmers lacked respect for backpackers, especially if they’re from non-English speaking countries.

3) There are thieves lurking in Bundaberg

During my first 3 weeks in Bundy 3 people got their i phones stolen. Many of the hostels offer very little security. Doors are often left open and old locks are easily picked. It’s not hard at all for people to walk in casually off the street and take their pick of mobiles, laptops etc. After one of the phone’s was stolen our hostel checked back the CCTV footage. They saw a man wearing a mask with his hood up walking around the hostel. But nothing more was done about it.

It was shortly after one of these phones was stolen that someone tried to open the door to my van. I was sitting in the front one night chatting with Chris when a young guy tried the handle. He didn’t see me through the tinted side window but I saw him, and watched him as he went up the street, trying each vehicle he came to. For the whole of my stay in Bundaberg I could never fully relax with my stuff. I made sure everything was always hidden and out of sight.

4) Bundy is rough as

There’s no doubt about it that Bundy is a rough town, one of the roughest I’ve been to in Australia. I definitely didn’t feel safe walking about the streets at night by myself. Often on the way into town I’d pass homes and hear domestics going on from within. On New Years Eve a group of us were walking past a house when my friend said Happy New Year to a woman, touching her lightly on the shoulder. She flipped out and had to be held back by 2 kids who just kept saying, “They’re just tourists, they don’t know!”

Most weekends I’d go to a club called Central with people from the hostel for a few drinks, and there’d always be a few shady characters about. One night we were sitting at a table when a couple of locals came over and sat across from us. They started banging and shaking the table, trying to knock over our drinks and staring at us as they did it. They came across as so pumped up and aggressive, just looking for a fight.

Another night a huge and extremely pissed Aboriginal woman started slurring incoherently at me in the toilets. I had no idea what she was saying, but I ended up running into one of the cubicles with a friend to escape her. She banged on the door and shouted at us before leaving.

But at least the police seem to have it under control. After dark they are everywhere! I’ve never seen so many police cars for a place of this size. At the weekends especially, they will be driving the roads, walking the streets, keeping an eye on everything. At least their job never gets boring.

“I can’t stand being in a place where Backpackers are taken advantage of!”

Since leaving Bundaberg it’s amazing how many backpackers I’ve met who have recently spent time there doing farm work. It’s almost like a right of passage in the backpacking world. And they all say the same thing. It was a shit place but I met some amazing people.

And this is totally true. I had hilarious nights out, met friends I know I’ll see again, gained experiences I’ll keep with me forever, and I actually had some fun! But would I go there again? No way. I can deal with the rough locals. I got used to the dirty hostel. But I can’t stand being in a place where Backpackers are taken advantage of!

I hated how my friends would get home from picking lemons all day with looks of despair on their faces as they’d barely earned enough money to pay their rent. They wanted to leave and look for work elsewhere but couldn’t afford to and didn’t know where to go. Backpackers come here because they’re desperate and then stay because they’re desperate. They know the rent’s not fair or the pay is a joke, but still they keep coming. It’s just all one big vicious circle that will never stop.

Road Trip: Wet ‘n’ Wild, Wakeboarding, and Brisbane

We left Brisbane and went back to the Gold Coast once again, but this time, to go to Wet ‘n’ Wild.

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Part of me didn’t want to spent $64 on a ticket for a water park, but we’d been doing so well living on a budget I suppose you have to let loose sometimes. We arrived at opening time and already the car park was packed and there was a crazy queue. So first bit of advice for anyone going to Wet ‘n’ Wild is to arrive early (although this is kind of obvious…)

After what felt like a lifetime we got in and stuck our stuff in a locker. Second bit of advice for Wet ‘n’ Wild… wear your flip flops. Again, this is kind of obvious, but Chris and I decided to go bare foot not realising how hot the ground would get. We spent the day running from shade to shade prancing around like idiots. After a couple of hours I had blisters starting on my feet from the friction.

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The water park itself was good but the queues were pretty bad, I’d hate to see it on the weekend! You spend all that time queuing for a slide only for it all to be over in a matter of seconds. In the 5 hours we spent there we just about managed to try every slide. Which is a bit ridiculous.

Tamborine Mountain

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After Wet ‘n’ Wild we headed to Tamborine Mountain, a small 525 metre plateau about 1 hour away from the Gold Coast. There was a nice small town here and the whole area was very peaceful and pretty.

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We spent a couple of days driving around the plateau and doing different rainforest walks.

Cable Ski

After all the peace and quiet it was time to do something a bit more exciting again, and spend more money. So we drove back towards Brisbane to Cable Ski Logan. I love snowboarding and have always wondered what wakeboarding is like. So when I read up about this place and saw you could just turn up and give it a go I really wanted to work it into our trip! Continue reading

Sunday Session with Seth Troxler… or so I’d Hoped

Chris and I arrived in Brisbane and drove through the city to Fortitude Valley. This is where a lot of the bars and clubs are in Brisbane. We were heading for a Sunday session at the bar, Alfred & Constance, where Seth Troxler would be playing.

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Seth Troxler is a big House DJ who was doing his Australian tour at the time. I’d seen him once before a few years ago at a festival back home, but seeing a DJ like this in an intimate bar setting would be a completely different experience. And even better, it was free entry. It all felt too good to be true!

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We went to the bar late afternoon and it was a pretty cool place. An outdoor terrace with a DJ booth set up, retro decoration, fairy lights, comfy leather couches you sunk right into. The only downside was the food and drink prices, maybe not too backpacker friendly.

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Road Trip: The Gold Coast

Our flight got into Brisbane pretty late so we spent the night freedom camping on a residential street near the airport and then got up early the next day and drove straight to Tweed Heads, which is more or less the start of the Gold Coast. This is where the first lifeguard hut is (I think there’s 39 up the coast)!

Tweed Heads

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My first impressions of Tweed were good. The high rises hadn’t quite started yet, it wasn’t busy at all, and there were great views of the Gold Coast skyline across the water. It was also pretty random how the boarder between NSW and Queensland runs straight through Tweed. I didn’t know which time to go by!

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Once there, Chris and I went straight to Snapper Rocks, which is apparently an epic point break for surfing. Although not on this day it wasn’t…. With the waves looking tiny and mushy we gave surfing a pass and instead, went for nice walk around the point, taking in the views.

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Time for Something New

It’s funny how quickly a decision can be made to send your life in a new direction. First something sparks off an idea, before you know it you’re making plans, and then you’re taking actions to make those plans happen.

For Chris and I it was a wedding. Our friend from home, Speedy, contacted us to say he was getting married to his girlfriend, Wenching, in Singapore at the end of March 2015.

We were so excited by the news! Not only would we be catching up with Speedy (who we hadn’t seen in over 18 months) and going to his wedding, but it was also an excuse to go to South East Asia.

The original plan was to aim to be in Darwin by March, fly to Singapore for the wedding, and then come back to Darwin after a few weeks to continue our Aussie road trip.

But then one day we were talking and Chris made a suggestion which I’d already toyed with myself. Why don’t we just leave Australia for good in March and start our South East Asia trip?

All of a sudden I was filled with that feeling of excitement you get before going travelling. I couldn’t keep the smile off my face and my mind was going crazy with all the possibilities that were now opening up. Surfing in Indonesia, chilling on Thai beaches, hiking, scuba diving, experiencing new cultures and food, I couldn’t wait!

Don’t get me wrong Australia’s been great. For the past 4 months I haven’t really had a care in the world. Bumming around in our campervan, surfing at any beach with a ridable wave, partying when we got to the bigger cities, it’s been awesome! But I’ve been here for over a year now and I’m just ready for something new.

South East Asia’s been in the forefront of my mind since I left to go to New Zealand back in January 2012, so I think it’s finally time to go.

So last week, with the click of a button on flight scanner, Chris and I took the action to make things happen. We booked flights to Singapore and then on to Bali. And that’s just the start.

But before I get ahead of myself, I’ve still got 3 months to spend in Australia, and I intend to make the most of that! There’ll still be plenty more Aussie blogs to come.

A Spontaneous Night Partying in Surfers Paradise

We spent about 4 days at Lennox Head just surfing, chilling out, and using the library. There wasn’t much excitement, except for one night when we almost ran over a carpet python! But they’re harmless so we let him be.

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But it was now approaching the weekend and we actually had some plans! We were going inland to a town called Lismore to catch up with our friend Micko, a guy we’d worked with last year during the New Zealand ski season in Wanaka.

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Micko, Me and Chris at a staff party

It had been over a year since we’d last seen Micko! But after arriving at his house and opening a few beers it was like no time had passed at all. We spent the night drinking beers and catching up.

The next morning Micko cooked up a fried breakfast and then he said, “so, what do you guys wanna do tonight?” It was a Saturday, and I hadn’t really thought much about what we’d get up to with Micko, but I figured he’d maybe have something in mind. A few drinks at the local pub maybe. But no, Micko had nothing planned :p

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It felt like we just sat in silence for a few minutes, no one putting up any ideas, when Micko said unsurely, “We could always have a night out in the Gold Coast?…” Yes! It was a great idea!  It had been ages since Chris and I had been on a night out or even got drunk! And the spontaneous plans are always the best.

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